I’ll open this post with the same comment I hear from most people who have tried to add muscle to their frame using the Paleo Diet, “the Paleo Diet works so well that it’s virtually impossible to gain muscle mass while following the paleo diet.” There will be people on both sides of this fence, there will be those who claim a strict paleo lifestyle as the only option, and there will be those who choose to not follow a paleo diet at all and think it’s a fad. In the end we know that extremes are never a good thing, keep that in mind. If you’re going to use the paleo diet for mass building it will take prior preparation to maintain a proper diet, and I have found no greater resource than Quick Paleo Meal Prep. This book takes you through the common questions and concerns with starting the Paleo Diet, and gives examples of how to easily custimize your Paleo Diet for yourself. But let’s get into the meat of this question “Is it Possible To Gain Muscle Following The Paleo Diet?”
THERE’S NO SIMPLE ANSWER
I can only speak from my personal experience, which if you’ve read the blog for any period of time you know is that extremes are bad, so I personally follow the 80/20 principle. It simply means that you can devote yourself to this “thing” for 80% of the time before you start coming off of the rails after too long. So to counteract that I make time for the 20% and plan for it, this gives me the freedom to enduldge when I feel like it and not have a feeling of guilt afterwards or think that all my gains are now gone. This philosophy goes well with the Paleo Diet and Muscle building, because in order to build muscle there needs to be a calorie surplus of some kind to facilitate growth. So if your goal is really to gain muscle and size while following a mostly paleo diet then you need to take full advantage of the 20% of your diet. Now it needs to be said that if you are following a STRICT Paleo Diet (no tubers or potatoes, rice, beans or dairy) you will have one heck of a time putting on mass, it’s not impossible but it’s not easy either. There are plenty of examples of vegitarian bodybuilders who’ve added loads of mass with a veggie lifestyle, that’s not what I would want at all, but it’s not about me it’s about you and what you want from this. So yes it’s possible to gain mass with a strict paleo lifestyle, but it’s much easier and will keep you sane longer if you adapt your diet to your goals.
WHAT I FOLLOW (suggestion not doctrine)
I’ve followed the 80/20 approach for about 6 months now, and have seen results in both directions of weight depending on how I adjusted the ingredients and quantities. When I started 6 months ago I was a fluffy 178 lbs. I was stronger than I’d ever been, but I was not in any shape to do anything athletically well. I applied the 80/20 principle on a weekly basis to start out, meaning I ate nothing but clean for 5 days out of the week and I mean CLEAN, as in grilled chicken breast and a few beans with green veggies for every meal…every day. BUT on the weekends I let go for one whole day and half-ish, nothing was off limits for one day and then I pulled back for the next day. I lost weight and I looked as shredded as I wanted to be at the time. Then I started the gain train back up with a little more efficient steam, now I follow a 80/20 diet for the day, 80% clean (Breakfast, Snacks and Lunch) and for post workout its 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes and 2 cups ground beef. I’ve addressed this in a recent post that I’ll link here. And for dinner it’s a not so clean meal with a focus on what the next training day looks like (if it’s a heavy lifting day I’ll carb up and if it’s a speed day I’ll add a moderate amount of carbs). I’ve worked my way up from a 165 lb. bodyweight to a just as lean 169 lb. bodyweight in a few weeks. Again this isn’t doctrine, it’s just what I choose to follow, you’re going to need to find what works best for you and your goals.
If your goal is weight gain then take time to consider the paleo diet as a guide for your meals surrounding your workout, and then having your binge meal directly after the workout session. This will promote LEAN GAINS, and keep your energy up while not having to yo-yo your diet.